Clemens pleads not guilty to charges he lied

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former baseball pitching star Roger Clemens pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he lied and obstructed a congressional investigation into whether he used banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens, 48, standing before Judge Reggie Walton in a federal courtroom in Washington, said "not guilty, your honor," in response to three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing the U.S. Congress.

The judge set jury selection for April 5 for Clemens, who won the Cy Young Award seven times as his league's best pitcher.

If convicted, Clemens could face $1.5 million in fines and up to 30 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines recommend up to 21 months.

Clemens towered over his lawyers as he arrived in the courtroom, wearing a black jacket with khaki pants and a colorful tie. He was released without bond pending trial.

The courtroom was filled with reporters who followed the baseball star out of the building, where television cameras and photographers surrounded a black SUV as he stepped inside.

The judge has admonished both the defense and prosecution not to talk about the case.

In February 2008 Clemens denied using steroids and human growth hormones to the staff of the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and again during a congressional hearing. He was under oath both times.

TWEETS DENIALS

After being indicted earlier this month, Clemens, known as "The Rocket" during his 24-year career, said on the social media site Twitter that he was innocent of the lying charges and again denied using human growth hormones or steroids.

The accusations that he used the performance-boosting drugs came from former trainer Brian McNamee. Clemens said McNamee fabricated the charges and he was only injected with vitamin B12 in 1998. The indictment said the B12 shots never happened.

Former teammate and longtime friend Andy Pettitte also has said in sworn testimony that Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormones. Clemens said Pettitte "misremembers" the conversation.

Defense attorney Rusty Hardin told the judge that there was a "good deal of scientific evidence that needs to be tested."

The judge ordered Clemens to check in with the pretrial office every two weeks with information about his whereabouts, but he denied a prosecution request Clemens surrender his passport.

Clemens, who ranks third all-time in strike outs by a major league pitcher, started his career in 1984 with the Boston Red Sox. He later pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. He is the only pitcher to have twice struck out 20 batters in a game.

The charges are the latest by federal prosecutors stemming from a 2007 report that named more than 80 current and former players suspected of using banned substances like steroids.

Former baseball star hitter Barry Bonds, who set the career record for home runs, faces trial in March on perjury charges related to his own testimony about performance enhancing drugs.

Miguel Tejada, a 14-year veteran who now plays for the San Diego Padres, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge of lying to Congress about doping in baseball.

Clemens was offered a plea deal, Hardin has said, but they rejected it.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Pressman in Boston; Writing by Jeremy Pelofsky: Editing by Chris Wilson and Jerry Norton)